Asif Ali Zardari
As Benazir Bhutto’s husband and the father of their three children, Mr Zardari has become the natural choice as party leader for some of PPP’s hardcore leaders and activists, who see in him the assurance of carrying forward the former leader’s policies. However, he is not popular with the masses because of corruption allegations, which were never proved but for which he was jailed from 1990 to 1993, and again from 1996 to 2004. PPP leaders say Mr Zardari’s strongest credentials come from being the father of a future leader should Bilawal, the couple’s 19-year-old, choose to enter politics.
As PPP vice-chairman, he is theoretically next in line to Bhutto. Mr Fahim has been an influential figure in Pakistani politics since the 1970s, and one of Bhutto’s staunchest allies. Both came from feudal, religious families in the Sindh province, which ironically is Mr Fahim’s biggest liabilility since he remains politically overshadowed by the Bhutto family on his home turf. In control of the party during Bhutto’s eight-year exile from April 1999, Mr Fahim constantly resisted pressure from Pervez Musharraf to turn his back on her in return for being made prime minister. His election as head of the PPP would come as a surprise to many of the party’s leaders.
Mr Ahsan’s profile has strengthened rapidly since March this year when he became the counsel to defend Iftikhar Chaudhary, the former Supreme Court chief justice who faced vague charges of misconduct. Mr Ahsan’s position gained further momentum when he was recently elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association at a time when lawyers were emerging as a visible force in Pakistani politics. In spite of his impressive oratory skills, Mr Ahsan’s political future for now seems to be confined to being a senior PPP leader unless Mr Zardari decides not to run.
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